Pressure builds in support of IKEA store

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Pressure was ramped up this week in support of a proposed IKEA store in the east end of Sheffield.

As a formal planning application was submitted to the council, local Liberal Democrats pointed to the importance of a deal to the owners of the site, Betafence, formerly Tinsley Wire.

Money from the sale would help maintain the firm’s competitiveness and jobs, says a letter from the company.

Details of a proposed £60m IKEA store off Sheffield Road, next to Meadowhall Retail Park, are now being studied by the council.

A raft of reports on behalf of the Swedish furniture and homeware retailer seeks to address all the key issues, including the impact on traffic and the city centre and compliance with local and national guidelines.

Consultants conclude that the ambition is “fully consistent” with planning policies and “there are no adverse impacts that outweigh the scheme’s significant benefits”. Up to 700 jobs are predicted.

One of the main concerns for the council is that surrounding roads will not be able to cope with the extra traffic.

However, Liberal Democrats believe there are no insurmountable obstacles, and they stepped up the pressure this week by releasing a letter from directors of Betafence.

It says wire products have been made in Sheffield Road since 1933, but the works closed in 2009 because of overseas competition and redundancies. Work was transferred to its Shepcote Lane factory, which has about 220 employees “and is a key employer in the city”.

Over the last two years, discussions have been held with IKEA, adds the letter.

“Money raised by this sale, which is subject to IKEA being granted planning permission, will give extra headroom to our business in Sheffield and is allowing for investment that should support competitiveness and hence futuire employment of Betafence Ltd, who has been part of the Sheffield’s manufacturing scene for decades.”

Urging the council to adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude, Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg said: “We already know that a new IKEA store would create up to 700 extra local jobs. However, now that it has been revealed the move would also safeguard 220 jobs at an iconic Sheffield manufacturer local Labour politicians should find it even more difficult to block development. Local people and the business community are overwhelmingly in favour of the IKEA development.”

A council decision is not expected for several weeks.